This morning, pepper spray was shot, people were stabbed, and others were likely trampled. Why? Because it’s Black Friday, and mommy needs a TV. Perhaps you’ve already braved the mayhem, but if punching an old lady in the throat to get her Bumblebee toy before making a clean sprint to the register isn’t your thing, there other things to do today. One of them is winching, and it can be much less dangerous than competitive shopping. Here are a few ways your winching experience can be safer than trying to put that soccer mom in a sleeper so you can get the last waffle iron.
Put on some gloves and inspect your line. Steel cables are made up of many tiny wires that can break over time. To assess the health of your line, pick one of the twisting, braided strands within the cable and follow it for a full twist around the cable. This is called one lay. If you have more than 12 broken wires in one lay, it’s time to get a new cable. And we weren’t kidding about the gloves. Those broken wires will catch on anything, so better that it’s a dead cow’s skin than your own. Pass the cable hand-over-hand, rather than letting it slide through your gloves, to prevent this further.
Work out some hand signals with your assistant. Since you’ll likely have one person inside the vehicle, controlling the winch, and another outside, communication between the two of you is important. You can use your own signals, but the universal ones are as follows: A raised fist means stop. Twirling your finger while pointing up means winch in. A similar downward twirl means winch out. A quick, grasping motion means that the operator should “bump” the winch in or out. And grasping down with both hands means you need to put your hands on the winch.
Keep a safe distance from the winch while spooling in the line. Every winch has something called run-on, which causes it to keep spooling for 12-18 inches after power is off. So keep yourself an arm’s length from the winch at all times, to reduce the chance of injury should you be caught in the line. You should also use a hook strap, so you don’t have to get close, even at the end of the line.
Hook up. Whenever you use that hook, point the open end toward the sky. Should the hook somehow fail and break, this will help the line recoil down, toward the nice, resilient earth, rather than up, toward your friend’s malleable face.
Finally, always use a line dampener. If that hook, or any part of your setup, does fail under pressure, it can be deadly. Placing a heavy blanket over the cable will help to direct its energy more safely. You should, however, keep out of range of the cable, and the safest place to be while winching is always inside the vehicle.
Now you have a statistically better chance of making it through your first winching experience without injury than you do in the line at the mall today.* Do you have any other winching safety tips? Share them in the comments.
*Statistic may be entirely fabricated.